The problem with Luther’s roommate mediation

I want to preface this piece by making it clear that there are no villains in this situation; simply people who had conflicting lifestyles, and that I take issue with the system which exacerbated the problem its processes were designed to resolve. Today I am grateful to be on good terms with all of my previous roommates, but I feel we may all have been friends today if the events described had been altered more quickly, and arrangements made when these issues were first brought to the attention of staff.

  Your first year of college has the potential to be one of the best or worst nine months of your life. Many aspects of your new situation contribute to this, such as friend dynamics, class schedules, work commitments, and studying. I feel that my first year experience falls solidly into the mediocre category. I made amazing new friends, took classes that challenged me, and began to expand my self-identity beyond the person I was in high school. I became more confident, outgoing, and generally happy. By all estimations, these things should have pushed my first year into one of my favorites. But it was hampered by my living situation.

I lived in a quad, and no, compulsory housing assignments into quads is not what this article is about. In fact, I voluntarily chose to live in a quad again this year, they’re great… when you are compatible with the people in them. My first year I was not. We had few real similarities, and while I got along with some roommates, others I did not, and it did lead to some significant conflict that I believe should have been foreseen. I won’t speak for others, but I often felt uncomfortable in the room, and at times, unsafe. When several meetings and arbitrations involving RAs and housing staff failed to resolve the situation, I became convinced that a reasonable solution/reconciliation could not be reached. After fall break, I notified one of my roomates that I intended to seek alternative housing.

Following my RA’s advice, we engaged in another roommate meeting, followed by two RA meetings, both as a room and individually. My RA encouraged me to postpone further action until after Christmas break, to allow tensions to ease during the time at home. This pushed the prescribed Hall Director meeting into J-term. At this point, I believe all four of us were advocating for a different situation. When I did meet with the hall director, I assumed that this would be the last step in the room change process, where I would receive a Room Change Request Form. Instead, we had a follow-up arbitration with our hall director, after which we were encouraged to keep trying to live together. Following another meeting with the hall director in February, one of my roommates was rehoused, but the alternative housing option was less than ideal for that individual, as most of their belongings had to remain in our room until March.

I’m recounting my story here as just one example of the many complaints I’ve heard about Luther’s housing policies. A process that began in October should not be dragged out until the end of February. All of us were in a stressful and unproductive living situation for the majority of the school year, and while this account only reflects my perspective of events, I am sure we would all agree that things would have been better if this situation had proceeded at a reasonable pace.

Instead we were coerced into multiple meetings, of which we already knew the outcome would not change.

An earlier solution could have resulted in a more amicable, healthy, and less stressful outcome for all. While I respect that some upper level input into individual cases is necessary and can lead to a reconciliation, the degree to which we were urged to continue to “make it work” was unfair and frankly disappointing. These residual feelings and failures continue to impact my view of my first year of college, and for that I am very disappointed.   

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